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Editorial: Let concerns be heard, but the election outcome is clear
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Editorial: Let concerns be heard, but the election outcome is clear

Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Don Bacon have this right: Joe Biden is the next president.

Bacon told The World-Herald’s Joe Morton the “handwriting’s on the wall” that Biden won. “We don’t want to delegitimize the elections at all, and so I ask the president to take a higher road on it. Because in the end we’ve been doing these elections since 1788 and we don’t want to pull apart at the seams.”

Sasse is one of four GOP senators to congratulate Biden. Thirty-one former Republican House members, including Nebraska’s Doug Bereuter, decried President Donald Trump’s allegations of vote fraud.

The United States has a formal process through which Biden’s victory will be certified, but the outcome is not realistically in question any more than it is in question that Republicans made gains in the House — using the very same ballots that the Trump campaign continues to selectively challenge.

We have had close presidential elections before. Democrats have suffered bitter defeats, including in 2016. The transition has been delayed only once, in 2000, when 537 votes in Florida ultimately decided the election. It’s not nearly that close this year, but the Trump administration is blocking transition funds.

Unlike in 2000, the Trump campaign would need to overturn the results in Pennsylvania, where Biden leads by 47,000 votes, and at least one other state, assuming Biden remains ahead in Arizona or Georgia, whose Republican secretary of state said it is unlikely a recount or investigations of fraud allegations will flip the state to Trump.

Trump’s claims are of a pattern. He alleged, without basis, that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, depriving him of a national popular vote win. After he finished second to Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses in 2016, he tweeted, “Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it,” and “Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.”

Sound familiar?

As Bacon suggests, questioning the fundamental fairness and accuracy of our elections erodes public confidence in a way that risks lasting impact. How many millions of Trump’s supporters will doubt election outcomes from now forward?

Legitimate legal challenges must be heard. Biden, seeking to be a unifier, could endorse that with seemingly little to fear. No court has heard a legitimate challenge yet, with thin Trump complaints being quickly dismissed. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio argues that Trump’s claims wouldn’t be harmed by moving forward with transition work. “We need to have that contingency in place,” Rubio said.

It is one thing to pursue legitimate legal questions. It is another to willfully damage confidence in the foundation of our system of government.

Our election system is a marvel. Each of the nation’s 3,141 counties tabulates its votes and reports them to the chief election officer of their state, whose office reports statewide totals. We had record turnout this year — which we want — and record mail-in voting because of pandemic safety concerns. Mail-in votes are legal in some form in every state, including five states that have long conducted elections by mail only, with no evidence of fraud.

The big turnout and record mail-in votes slowed counting, particularly in the most populous counties. In some states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Trump showed early leads, absentee votes, most heavily used by Democrats, were counted last. In Michigan, for example, 1.5 million votes were cast in just two metro Detroit counties, compared with 950,000 for all of Nebraska. It took longer to count them, but as former President George W. Bush said in a statement congratulating Biden, “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”

It is time to move forward with American history.

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